Self Care

What`s that says every busy mum I know?! I`ll admit I was a bit stumped on how to follow last week’s blog. I had some amazing comments both publicly on my Facebook page and by private message. For me the responses were exactly the reason I started this blog in the first place, putting yourself out there can be a bit daunting but if people never did out society would be even more closed to topics like mental health. So thank you to everyone that took the time to read last week, it`s the most personal blog to date.

So how to follow up, last week was a whistle stop tour across my mental health journey and I touched very briefly on some of the things I put in place to help me but after a discussion with someone last night I got a lightbulb moment for this week…….self-care! What on earth does it mean and how can someone that juggles 101 different things make time for it.

So first a bit of theory……Maslow`s hierarchy of needs. In short it`s a pyramid of life needs that if you take a layer out the pyramid struggles to stand tall. Right at the top is self-actualisation, in plain speak this is the fully functioning, contributing member of society. Right at the bottom is physiological needs- eat, sleep, shelter etc. My take on all of this, look after yourself so you can be in a place to look after others (I`m pretty sure Maslow sums it up in more than one sentence for anyone wanting more!) and it is most definitely not selfish.

So my relationship with self-care. I will openly admit that supporting and helping others is part of my self-care, and I’m afraid to say I don`t mean looking after Jude (though clearly most of the time I love doing this too). The rest of my self-care is 100% solo time. Wow that seems odd saying it out loud, in order to take care of my own needs I need to be in my own space with me, myself and I. Before I fell pregnant, when it was just hubby and me, I felt like I need a lot less me time. We shared nearly everything and spent very little time apart. Once the HG came along that’s probably when things started to change. After the initial weekend I had about 3 weeks off work before returning. I was pretty naïve at this point and just thought I`d be able to carry on as `normal`. I can`t remember how long I was at work for but it can`t have been long before I had to take some time off sick again. I started to read more about how to manage HG (not just the medication side) and slowing down was one of them. Now this instantly panicked me as I live in fear of grinding to a halt. However trying to juggle everything with minimal fuel inside me was definitely not conducive to a functioning human being. I felt really torn, I reduced my hours and worked from home more to try and minimise the impact of work so I could carry on with everything else but it didn’t work. I was spending evenings and weekends too wiped out to do anything with hubby. Feeling constantly nauseous was one thing, adding feeling guilty about not functioning at work or home just plummeted my mood. I felt as if I`d reached a point where I was making the wrong choices (work over home) and as I`ve mentioned before I had a brilliant boss that I could be completely open with. The battle for looking after myself however wasn`t over.

I`m an active person, have been since a small child. And here in lay the problem, I had no energy to do simple day to day tasks never mind run, go for days out etc I had to find a way to be comfortable with activities that were sedate. Enter my prized possession………

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I have loved to read my whole life (well since I could read), I used to sit in a locked car with a book whilst my mum did the Sainsbury’s shop. It hasn`t changed now…..although I have to do the shop now! I love to read, it’s my way of switching off from everything. Even hubby will say `you need to get your book out` when he can see I`m struggling or feeling overwhelmed. So for the first few weeks of my sick leave I slept when I needed to sleep, ate what I could (chicken super noodles mostly, sometimes 3 packs a day), and read. I then found that I could `treat` myself occasionally, or I should say hubby treated me! Tickets to Adele, probably my best memory from my pregnancy. I felt ok and was able to enjoy an amazing concert with hubby. I firmly believe this was because I had `given in` (some negativity is hard to overcome) and allowed myself to care for me. I slowly learnt that I could still take part in all the things I loved to do if I took care of myself first. So for the rest of my pregnancy I made plans but ensured they had lots of self-care wrapped around them. For example we still went for our annual Speedway Grand Prix to Cardiff, but instead of spending our days shopping and the evenings at the stadium we spent a lot of time in the hotel room. We popped out for an hour or so to walk around before heading back for a sleep or a rest. It meant that we could still enjoy the speedway. I plan to coerce hubby into writing a guest blog at some point as the number of sacrifices he had to make through my pregnancy and continues to make are huge, something I`m eternally grateful for. Sometimes life just needs some adjustments.

I want to add a top tip in here. Airbnb! We started using them for the flexibility with a baby but I wish I`d thought about it for that trip to Cardiff. Finding places where I could tolerate some food was really tricky, renting your own apartment/house allows you the flexibility to take with you whatever you need; for some people its certain foods and for others it can go down to things such as needing your own duvet (therefore own smells).

Back to adjustments, lets introduce a small person into the mix! I had to re-evaluate my need for self-care. In short I needed to find ways of still doing it whilst being a busy mum. Reading still features heavily and I`ve been able to get back to running a bit. I used to feel hugely guilty for needing time out from Jude but I know that if I don`t have some me time I can`t be a good mum or wife. Sometimes self-care doesn`t need to be huge, I have been known to walk round to our leisure centre (about 400m away from our house) and have a cup of tea. One thing I have learnt is I do often need to physically leave the house, if not my mind gets overwhelmed with the jobs I can see that need to be done. I`m saving my role as peer supporter with PSS for another blog as that deserves its own week, however it is definitely part of looking after myself.

So what message am I trying to get across this week……………….

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Karen Lodge